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Zeus-Jupter | Greco-Roman marble statue | Altes Museum, Berlin
Zeus-Jupter, Greco-Roman marble statue, Altes Museum

ZEUS was the Olympian king of the gods and the god of sky, weather, fate, law, justice and moral conduct.

This page describes the cult of the god in central and northern Greece, the Aegean islands and the Greek colonies. His main shrine in northern Greece was the ancient oracle at Dodona. In the Aegean the seat of his worship was Mount Ida in Krete. As the Greeks established colonies around the Mediterranean, Zeus came to be identified with a number of foreign gods including Ammon in Libya and the indigenous sky-gods of Karia and Phrygia in Anatolia.



I. THEBES Main City of Boeotia (Boiotia)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 8. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"By the Hypsistan [gate of Thebes, Boiotia] is a sanctuary of Zeus surnamed Hypsistos (Most High)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 19. 3 :
"Above Glisas [near Thebes in Boiotia] is a mountain called Hypatos (Supreme), and on it a temple and image of Zeus Hypatos (Supreme)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 25. 4 :
"Along the road from the Neistan gate [of Thebes, Boiotia] are three sanctuaries. There is a sanctuary of Themis, with an image of white marble; adjoining it is a sanctuary of the Moirai (Fates), while the third is of Zeus Agoraios (of the Market). Zeus is made of stone; the Moirai (Fates) have no images."

II. MT. CITHAERON (KITHAIRON) Mountain in Boeotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 2. 4 :
"Mount Kithairon [in Boiotia] is sacred to Zeus Kithaironios (of Kithairon)."

III. PLATAEA (PLATAIA) Town in Boeotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 2. 5 - 7 :
"Roughly at the entrance into Plataia [in Boiotia] . . . is an altar of Zeus Eleutherios (God of Freedom). This then is of bronze, but the altar and the image he made of white marble. Even at the present day they hold every four years games called Eleutheria (Of Freedom ), in which great prizes are offered for running. The competitors run in armour before the altar. The trophy which the Greeks set up for the [historical] battle at Plataia stands about fifteen stades from the city. Advancing in the city itself from the altar and the image which have been made to Zeus Eleutherios, you come to a hero-shrine of Plataia."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 3. 1 - 3 :
"Hera, they say, was for some reason or other angry with Zeus, and had retreated to Euboia. Zeus, failing to make her change her mind, visited Kithaeron, at that time despot in Plataia, who surpassed all men for his cleverness. So he ordered Zeus to make an image of wood, and to carry it, wrapped up, in a bullock wagon, and to say that he was celebrating his marriage with Plataia, the daughter of Asopos. So Zeus followed the advice of Kithairon. Hera heard the news at once, and at once appeared on the scene. But when she came near the wagon and tore away the dress from the image, she was pleased at the deceit, on finding it a wooden image and not a bride, and was reconciled to Zeus. To commemorate this reconciliation they celebrate a festival called Daidala, because the men of old time gave the name of daidala to wooden images . . . the Plataians [of Plataia, Boiotia] hold the festival of the Daidala every six years, according to the local guide, but really at a shorter interval. I wanted very much to calculate exactly the interval between one Daidala and the next, but I was unable to do so. In this way they celebrate the feast."


Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 26. 7 :
"In Thespiai [in Boiotia] is a bronze image of Zeus Soter (Saviour). They say about it that when a Drakon once was devastating their city, the god [Zeus] commanded that every year one of their youths, upon whom the lot fell, should be offered to the monster. Now the names of those who perished they say that they do not remember. But when the lot fell on Kleostratos, his lover Menestratos, they say, devised a trick. He had made a bronze breastplate, with a fish-hook, the point turned outwards, upon each of its plates. Clad in this breastplate he gave himself up, of his own free will, to the Drakon, convinced that having done so he would, though destroyed himself, prove the destroyer of the monster. This is why the Zeus has been surnamed Soter (Saviour)."

V. MT. LAPHYSTIUS (LAPHYSTIOS) Mountain in Boeotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 34. 5 :
"The distance from Koroneia to Mount Laphystios and the precinct of Zeus Laphystios is about twenty stades. The image is of stone. They say that when Athamas was about to sacrifice here Phrixos and Helle, a ram with his fleece of gold was sent by Zeus to the children, and that on the back of this ram they made good their escape."

VI. LEBADEIA Village in Boeotia

Strabo, Geography 9. 2. 38 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"At Lebadeia is situated an oracle of Zeus Trophonios. The oracle has a descent into the earth consisting of an underground chasm; and the person who consults the oracle descends into it himself. It is situated between Mt. Helikon and Khaironeia, near Koroneia."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 39. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"He who descends [into the subterranean oracle of Trophonios] sacrifices to Trophonios himself and to the children of Trophonios, to Apollon also and Kronos, to Zeus surnamed Basileus (King), to Hera Heniokhe (Charioteer), and to Demeter whom they surname Europa and say was the nurse of Trophonios."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 39. 4 :
"There is also [in Lebadeia, Boiotia] a sanctuary of . . . Zeus Hyetios (Rain-god) in the open. If you go up to the oracle [of Trophonios], and thence onwards up the mountain, you come to what is called the Maid's Hunting and a temple of Zeus Basileus (King). This temple they have left half finished, either because of its size or because of the long succession of the wars. In a second temple are images of Kronos, Hera and Zeus."

For MORE information on the oracle at Lebadeia see TROPHONIOS


Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 40. 11 - 12 :
"Of the gods, the people of Khaironeia [in Boiotia] honor most the scepter which Homer says Hephaistos made for Zeus, Hermes received from Zeus and gave to Pelops, Pelops left to Atreus, Atreus to Thyestes, and Agamemnon had from Thyestes. This scepter, then, they worship, calling it Spear [most likely worshipped as the sceptre of Zeus]. That there is something peculiarly divine about this scepter is most clearly shown by the fame it brings to the Khaironians. They say that it was discovered on the border of their own country and of Panopeos in Phokis, that with it the Phocians discovered gold, and that they were glad themselves to get the scepter instead of the gold. I am of opinion that it was brought to Phokis by Agamemnon's daughter Elektra. It has no public temple made for it, but its priest keeps the scepter for one year in a house. Sacrifices are offered to it every day, and by its side stands a table full of meats and cakes of all sorts."

VIII. MT. PETRACHUS (PETRAKHOS) Mountain near Chaeroneia in Boeotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 41. 6 :
"There is beyond the city [of Khaironeia, Boiotia] a crag called Petrakhos. Here they hold that Kronos was deceived, and received from Rhea a stone instead of Zeus, and there is a small image of Zeus on the summit of the mountain."


Strabo, Geography 9. 2. 31 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Here [at Eleutherai in Boiotia] it was that the forces of the Greeks [historically] completely wiped out Mardonios and his three hundred thousand Persians; and they built a temple of Zeus Eleutherios, and instituted the athletic games in which the victor received a crown, calling them the Eleutheria."


I. EUBOEA (EUBOIA) Town in Euboea

Strabo, Geography 10. 1. 9 :
"It is said that the city which bore the same name as the island [of Euboia] was swallowed up by reason of a disturbance of this kind. This city is also mentioned by Aiskhylos in his Glaukos Pontios : ‘Euboeïs, about the bending shore of Zeus Kenaios, near the very tomb of wretched Likhas.’"


Aeschylus, Fragment 273 Glaucus Pontius (from Papyri Oxyrhynchus) (trans. Lloyd-Jones) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"I had come to the bend of Euboia, about the headland of Zeus Kenaios, right by unhappy Likhas' tomb."


I. DELPHI (DELPHOI) Town & Sanctuary in Phocis (Phokis)

Strabo, Geography 9. 2. 11 :
"Harma is a village in the Tanagraian territory [in Boiotia] . . . Here originated the proverb, ‘when the lightning flashes through Harma’; for those who are called the Pythaistai look in the general direction of Harma, in accordance with an oracle, and note any flash of lightning in that direction, and then, when they see the lightning flash, take the offering to Delphoi. They would keep watch for three months, for three days and nights each month, from the altar of Zeus Astrapaios (Of the Lightning); this altar is within the walls between the Pythion and the Olympion [at Delphoi]."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 9. 7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[In Delphoi] are offerings of the Lakedaimonians from spoils of the Athenians: the Dioskouroi, Zeus, Apollon, Artemis, and beside these Poseidon."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 13. 6 :
"The Phliasians brought to Delphoi a bronze Zeus, and with the Zeus an image of Aigina."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 24. 4 :
"[In the temple of Apollon at Delphoi] there are also images of two Moirai (Fates); but in place of the third Moira (Fate) there stand by their side Zeus Moiragetes (Guide of Fate), and Apollon Moiragetes (Guide of Fate)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 24. 6 :
"[Above the temple of Apollon at Delphoi] you come to a stone of no large size. Over it every day they pour olive oil, and at each feast they place on it unworked wool. There is also an opinion about this stone, that it was given to Kronos instead of his child [Zeus], and that Kronos vomited it up again."

II. CORONEIA (KORONEIA) Village in Phocis

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 34. 1 :
"In the temple [of Athena Itonia near Koroneia, Phokis] are bronze images of Athena Itonia and Zeus; the artist was Agorakritos, pupil and loved one of Pheidias."

III. Near DAULIS Village in Phocis

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 5. 1 - 2 :
"Turning back from Daulis to the straight road to Delphoi [in Phokis] and going forwards, you see on the left of the road a building called the Phokian Building, where assemble the Phokian delegates from each city. The building is large, and within are pillars standing throughout its length. From the pillars rise steps to each wall, on which steps the Phokian delegates take their seats. At the end are neither pillars nor steps, but images of Zeus, Athena and Hera. That of Zeus is on a throne; on his right stands Hera, on his left Athena."


I. MT. AENUS (AINOS) Mountain in Cephallenia (Kephallenia)

Strabo, Geography 10. 2. 15 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The largest mountain upon it [the island of Kephallenia] is Ainos, whereon is the temple of Zeus Ainesios (of Ainos)."


I. DODONA Town & Oracle in Thesprotia



I. SCOTUSSA (SKOTOUSSA) Town & Oracle in Perrhaebia (Perrhaibia)

Strabo, Geography 9. 5. 20 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Skotoussa [in Perrhaibia, Thessalia] I have already mentioned in my account of Dodona and of the oracle in Thessaly."


I. PELLA Main City of Macedonia (Makedonia)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 16. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The future prosperity [of the historical general] Seleukos was foreshadowed by unmistakable signs. When he was about to set forth from Makedonia with Alexandros [the Great], and was sacrificing at Pella [in Makedonia] to Zeus, the wood that lay on the altar advanced of its own accord to the image and caught fire without the application of a light."


I. MT. Mountain in Ceos (Keos)

Callimachus, Aetia Fragment 3. 1 (from Oxyrhynchus Papyri 7) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The [Kean] priests of Zeus Aristaios Ikmaios (the Lord of Moisture): priests whose business it is upon the mountain-tops to assuage stern Maira [the Dog-Star Sirios which was believed to bring scorching heat to Greece in mid-summer and with it the plague of pestilence] when she rises and to entreat from Zeus the wind [the Etesian] whereby many a quail is entangled in the linen mesh."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 81. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"[Apollon instructed his son Aristaios to move] to the island of Keos and told him likewise of the honours which would be his among the Keans. To this island he sailed, but since a plague prevailed throughout Greece the sacrifice he offered there was on behalf of all the Greeks. And since the sacrifice was made at the time of the rising of the star Sirios, which is the period when the etesian winds customarily blow, the pestilential diseases, we are told, came to an end . . . [so he] put an end to the influence of the star which, of all the stars of heaven . . . is thought to bring destruction upon mankind, and by so doing was responsible for saving the lives of the rest. We are further informed that Aristaios left descendants behind on the island of Keos [i.e. the priests of Zeus Aristaios who summoned the Etesian winds]."

For the MYTH of the founding of this cult see ARISTAIOS


I. Near SAMOS Main Town of Samos

Strabo, Geography 14. 1. 14 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The temple [of Hera on the Greek Island of Samos], which is open to the sky, is likewise full of most excellent statues. Of these, three of colossal size, the work of Myron, stood upon one base; Antony took these statues away, but Augustus Caesar restored two of them, those of Athena and Herakles, to the same base, although he transferred the Zeus to the Kapitolion [Capitol of Rome], having erected there a small chapel for that statue."


I. MT. ATABYRIS Mountain of Rhodes (Rhodos)

Strabo, Geography 14. 2. 12 :
"Atabyris, the highest of the mountains there [on the island of Rhodes], which is sacred to Zeus Atabyrios."


I. PRASUS (PRASOS) Town in Crete (Krete)

Strabo, Geography 10. 4. 6 :
"The town Prasos [in Krete], where is the temple of Zeus Diktaios (of Mt Dikte)."

Strabo, Geography 10. 4. 12 :
"[The town of] Prasos [in Krete] belonged to the Eteo-Kretans; and the temple of Zeus Diktaios was there; for Dikte is near it, not ‘close to the Idaian Mountain,’ as Aratos says, for Dikte is a thousand stadia distant from Ida."

II. MT. IDA Mountain in Crete

Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 19 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"In Krete there is said to be a sacred cave full of bees [the Dikation Cave on Mt Ida]. In it, as storytellers say, Rhea gave birth to Zeus; it is a sacred place an no one is to go near it, whether god or mortal. At the appointed time each year a great blaze is seen to come out of the cave. Their story goes on to say that this happens whenever the blood from the birth of Zeus begins to boil up. The sacred bees that were the nurses of Zeus occupy this cave."

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4. 34 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to 2nd A.D.) :
"He [the C1st A.D. Greek prophet Apollonios of Tyana] continued his course to Gortyna because he longed to visit Ida [the birth-place of Zeus]. He accordingly climbed up, and visited the sacred sites."


I. SMYRNA City in Aeolis - Lydia

Strabo, Geography 14. 1. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Kallinos . . . calls the Ephesians Smyrnaians in the prayer to Zeus 'remember, if ever the Smyrnaians burnt up beautiful thighs of oxen in sacrifice to thee."

II. MAGNESIA Town in Aeolis - Lydia

Strabo, Geography 14. 1. 41 :
"As for Anaxenor [of Aiolian Magnesia], the citharoede (cithara-player), the theatres exalted him, but [Marc] Antony exalted him all he possibly could . . . Further, his native land greatly increased his honors, having clad him in purple as consecrated to Zeus Sosipolis (City Saviour), as is plainly indicated in his painted image in the market-place."


I. DIDYMA Village near Miletus in Ionia - Caria (Karia)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 13. 11 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"There is also an altar [of Zeus] at Didyma of the Milesians, which Herakles the Theban is said by the Milesians to have made from the blood of the victims. But in later times the blood of the sacrifices has not made the altar excessively large."

II. TRALLEIS Town in Caria

Strabo, Geography 14. 1. 42 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Flourished in my time [was] Menodoros [of Tralleis], a man of learning, and otherwise august and grave, who held the priesthood of Zeus Larisaios."

III. MYLASA & LABRANDA Town & Village in Caria

Callimachus, Aetia Fragment 3. 1 (from Oxyrhynchus Papyri 7) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"They dwelt in it [Karia] whose offerings Zeus Stratios (of the War Cry) evermore receives to the sound of trumpets."

Strabo, Geography 14. 2. 23 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Mylasa [in Karia] is situated in an exceedingly fertile plain; and above the plain, towering into a peak, rises a mountain, which has a most excellent quarry of white marble. Now this quarry is of no small advantage, since it has stone in abundance and close at hand, for building purposes and in particular for the building of temples and other public works; accordingly this city, as much as any other, is in every way beautifully adorned with porticoes and temples . . . The Mylasians have two temples of Zeus, Zeus Osogoa [an indigenous Karian god], as he is called, and Zeus Labrandenos. The former is in the city, whereas Labranda is a village far from the city, being situated on the mountain near the pass that leads over from Alabanda to Mylasa. At Labranda there is an ancient shrine and statue of Zeus Stratios (Warlike). It is honored by the people all about and by the Mylasians; and there is a paved road of almost sixty stadia from the shrine to Mylasa, called the Sacred Way, on which their sacred processions are conducted. The priestly offices are held by the most distinguished of the citizens, always for life. Now these temples belong peculiarly to the city; but there is a third temple, that of Zeus Karios (of Karia), which is a common possession of all Karians, and in which, as brothers, both Lydians and Mysians have a share."

Aelian, On Animals 12. 30 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Tame fishes which answer to a call and gladly accept food are to be fond and are kept in many places, for instance . . . at the shrine of Zeus of Labrandra [in Karia] in a spring of transparent water. And there fish have golden necklaces and earrings also of gold. The shrine of this Zeus is 70 stades distant from the city of Mylasa. A sword is attached to the side of the statue, and the god is worshipped under the name Zeus Karios (of Karia) and Stratios (God of War), for the Karians were the first to think of making a trade of war and to serve as soldiers for pay, to fit arm-straps to their shields, and to fix plumes on their helmets. And they were called ‘Karians’ after Kar the son of Krete and Zeus, and Zeus received the title of Labrandeus because he sent down furious (labros) and heavy rainstorms."


Strabo, Geography 14. 2. 25 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Stratonikeia [in Karia] is a settlement of Makedonians . . . There are two temples in the country of the Stratonikeians, of which the most famous, that of Hekate . . . And near the city is the temple of Zeus Khrysaoreus, the common possession of all Karians, whither they gather both to offer sacrifice and to deliberate on their common interests. Their League, which consists of villages, is called Khrysaorian. And those who present the most villages have a preference in the vote, like, for example, the people of Keramos. The Stratonikeians also have a share in the League, although they are not of the Karian stock, but because they have villages belonging to the Khrysaorian League."


I. TYANA Town in Cappadocia (Kappadokia)

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 1. 6 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to 2nd A.D.) :
"There is near Tyana a well sacred to Zeus the God of Oaths (Dios Horkios), so they say, and they call it the well of Asbama. Here a spring rises cold, but bubbles up like a boiling cauldron. This water is favourable and sweet to those who keep their oaths, but to perjurers is brings hot-footed justice; for it attacks their eyes and hands and feet, and they fall the prey of dropsy and wasting disease; and they are not even able to go away, but are held on the spot and bemoan themselves at the edge of the spring, acknowledging their perjuries."


I. OLBE Town in Cilicia (Kilikia)

Strabo, Geography 14. 5. 10 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Above this [Kyinda] and Soloi [in Kilikia] is a mountainous country, in which is a city Olbe, with a temple of Zeus, founded by Aias the son of Teukros. The priest of this temple became dynast of Kilikia Trakheia; and then the country was beset by numerous tyrants, and the gangs of pirates were organized. And after the overthrow of these they called this country the domain of Teukros, and called the same also the priesthood of Teukros; and most of the priests were named Teukros or Aias."


I. ANCYRA (ANKYRA) Main City of Phrygia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 4. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Ankyra, is a city of the Phrygians, which Midas son of Gordios had founded in former time. And the anchor [ankyra means anchor], which [the mythical king] Midas found, was even as late as my time in the sanctuary of Zeus [or a Phrygian sky-god identified with Zeus], as well as a spring called the Spring of Midas."


I. ARSINOE Town in Cyprus (Kypros)

Strabo, Geography 14. 6. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"A city Arsinoe [in Kypros] and the sacred precinct of Zeus. It was founded by Phaleros and Akamas, Athenians."


The god of the Libyan Oracle at Ammon was identified by the Greeks with Zeus.

Strabo, Geography 7 Fragment 1a :
"He [Zeus at Dodona] gave out the oracle, not through words, but through certain symbols, as was the case at the oracle of Zeus Ammon in Libya."


I. SYRACUSE (SYRAKOUSE) City in Sicily (Sikelia) (Greek Colony)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 28. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"In those days men laid the greatest stress on piety to the gods, as the [historical] Athenians showed when they took the sanctuary of Zeus Olympios at Syrakouse [in Sicily]; they moved none of the offerings, but left the Syrakousan priest as their keeper."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 1. 20 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Dionysios [tyrant of Syrakousa, ca. 430-367 B.C.] stole objects from all the temples of Syrakousa. From the cult statue of Zeus he removed the clothing and other ornaments, which amounted, it is said, to eighty-five talents of gold. When the workmen were hesitant to touch the statue, he dealt the first blow."


I. ROME Imperial Capital

Strabo, Geography 14. 1. 14 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The temple [of Hera on the Greek Island of Samos], which is open to the sky, is likewise full of most excellent statues. Of these, three of colossal size, the work of Myron, stood upon one base; Antony took these statues away, but Augustus Caesar restored two of them, those of Athena and Herakles, to the same base, although he transferred the Zeus to the Kapitolion [Capitol of Rome], having erected there a small chapel for that statue."





A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.